Written by Caroline Watkins, proud AmeriCorps member serving on the Capital Area United Way Team at Capitol Middle School.
Tomorrow is Veterans Day, celebrated annually on November 11 to honor all those who have served the United States in the armed forces. Dating back to the end of World War I in 1919, the holiday was originally intended to celebrate world peace. At Capitol Middle School, eight members of the faculty and staff formerly served our country in the military. Edwin Lee, the seventh grade American history teacher, gave us a glimpse into why he served and what he learned while in the military.
Q: Why did you join the military?
A: To be honest, it was a job, and I was ready to leave home. But I really liked the orderliness of the military, and the opportunities it gave me.
Q: What was your rank and role in the army?
A: I retired as a major. My last job was in South Korea, and I was working as an operations officer for a patriot battalion.
Q: Where else did you serve?
A: I served in the United States, Saudi Arabia, and Germany. I was actually in Germany when the Berlin Wall fell and it was an amazing thing to see people reunite after all those years.
Q: What was your first day like?
A: I was scared to death. As a brand new second lieutenant, I had a platoon of about 30 people, and everybody in there looked older than me. A lot of them knew more than me, so I had to work on building relationships with them that utilized their experience but maintained a respect for my rank.
Q: Tell me about the day you met your wife in the army?
A: Her unit played my unit in a basketball tournament. At that time I had an ego that was unsurpassed by anything in the world, and when she walked by and didn’t pay homage to my rank, I wanted to have a talk with her. She wasn’t impressed by the fact that I was a captain and in command, so I got even with her and married her. Well it’s been 29 years and we are still together! They really beat the daylights out of us in that game though.
Q: What made you go into teaching after retiring from the army?
A: I started working for a company called Associated Grocers, and I saw how many people came through with no other option than a job in a grocery store because they didn’t have an education. I thought I could make a difference and there was something for me to do to change that. The thing that frightened me the most about teaching was that 50% of the time you don’t succeed, and that was hard for me to come to terms with, especially coming out of the military where you are expected to have good results.
Q: What did you learn in the military that you apply to teaching?
A: Everything is achieved through discipline and hard work. In the army, nobody cuts you any slack based on where you come from or what your education was like. They still expect you to perform, so you have to give it everything you have. I firmly believe that anything can be achieved if you work hard enough.
This Veterans Day, City Year Baton Rouge thanks Mr. Lee for his service to our country and our schools, and we thank all U.S. Veterans for their bravery and sacrifices!